A guide to the mind

'Mental Disorders and YOU ' can be of help to anyone desiring to lead a healthy life


In 1974, after post-graduate studies, Dr Arun Rukadikar and his wife, Dr Mary Ponnaiya Rukadikar, re-established the Department of Psychiatry at Wanless Hospital and Miraj Medical College, Miraj, which had remained closed for ten years.

What struck them was the time it took the patients’ relatives to come to them after the mental illness had started—often two to three or even more years. The relatives had not realised that the patients were suffering from mental disorders, which could be treated scientifically. That is how the doctors decided to hold a weekly group meeting for the family members of their patients. They wanted to dispel doubts, misconceptions and superstitions about the disorders.

Many of the relatives started finding the meetings interesting, as for the first time, they were about to understand why the patients behaved the way they did. They requested the Rukadikars to compile the information they were imparted into a mental health handbook, which would be useful for them. That is how the first edition of this book’s Marathi version was published in 1987. Twenty years later, the English version, Mental Disorders and YOU, was published and earlier this year, a revised second edition of the book came out.

Mental Disorders and YOU is an important book because if you are a mental health patient or the relative of one, chances are you did not have any resources to refer to understand what you were going through and to take informed decisions regarding the treatment. This is the vacuum that this book aims to fill. Another important factor is that in India, there is a big gap between the availability of professional psychiatric help and the number of psychiatric patients. According to one survey (cited in the book), there are an estimated 15 crore psychiatric patients in India currently, and only 7,000 to 9,000 mental health professionals. In such a scenario, families of patients are often the first and, many times, only level of care for the mentally ill. This book will be of immense help to the families to take active and well-informed decisions.

Also, the pandemic has brought mental health issues once again to the fore. Fear of contracting the infection, social distancing and consequent isolation, uncertainty of survival and deaths of family members have wreaked havoc in the minds of many Indians. “Considering the magnitude of the problem, information about what factors determine who will develop acute stress reaction (or disorder) or PTSD following exposure to trauma could play an important role in reducing the negative, long-term consequences of extreme stress, including various mental disorders and enduring personality change in sufferers,” write the Rukadikars.

The book is condensed wisdom from the Rukadikars’ decades of experience treating mental illness. They are both highly qualified doctors; Dr Arun was senior house-officer at the Department of Psychiatry at CMC, Vellore in 1969 and did his MD in Psychiatry from King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, from 1972 to 1974. Dr Mary did her MBBS from CMC Vellore and her diploma in psychological medicine from NIMHANS from 1973 to 1975.

Mental Disorders and YOU is divided into 26 chapters and covers a gamut of mental illnesses from mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety and fear related disorders, stress disorders, eating disorders, conditions related to sexual health, personality disorders, autism, addiction, epilepsy and other neurocognitive disorders and disorders associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Each disorder is dealt with in detail, with case studies, description of types, symptoms, incidence and prevalence in the general population, modes of treatment and frequently asked questions. These are explained not just through text, but also through the use of graphs and illustrations, which enliven the information.

The Rukadikars’ approach to medicine is holistic and contemporary. The book need not be restricted to helping mentally ill people or their families; it can be a good guide for anyone desiring to lead a healthy lifestyle, with its stress on factors like generosity, exercise and meditation. The language is simple and easy for a layman to understand. The only grouse is that the excellent information the book provides could have been packaged in a more attractive and lively layout and design. But don’t let its thickness deter you; if you have any experience with mental illness, you will realise that it is worth its weight.

Book: Mental Disorders and YOU

Authors: Arun Rukadikar and Dr Mary Ponnaiya Rukadikar

Price: Rs. 900

Pages: 836

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